'We finally have peace': Dead man's family speaks as judge issues sentence in fatal beating

A man accused of in the 2017 fatal beating death of another man in West Palm Beach received an 11-year prison sentence this week after he pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge.

Christopher Hice, 43, pleaded to the charge during a hearing on Tuesday, April 9, before Circuit Judge Howard Coates. The judge credited Hice with 657 days, or a year and nine months, of time served in jail while awaiting trial.

Hice initially faced a second-degree murder charge after West Palm Beach police alleged that he beat 49-year-old Frank Fini to death after accusing Fini of stealing money from him. Fini's body was found Feb. 9, 2017, behind the Asian Accents store on the 500 block of Belvedere Road, between Interstate 95 and South Dixie Highway.

At the time of Hice's arrest, court records listed his last local address as a homeless shelter on 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

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During the April 9 hearing, Assistant State Attorney Marci Horwitz Rex told the court Fini died of blunt force trauma injuries sustained when he was punched in the face twice.

According to police accounts, Hice fled to Tennessee after the attack. Police in 2021 traveled to Knoxville to collect DNA from him and question him about Fini's death. Hice denied having involvement in the beating attack, but police investigators said that DNA evidence collected from Fini's hands and fingernails showed that Hice was likely contributor.

During Tuesday's hearing, Fini's sisters, Gina and Cynthia, addressed the court. Gina Fini told the court that her brother spent years struggling to recover from a major brain injury he suffered in a car crash. He was in between finding housing when he was killed.

"I will never forgive this man, but I will pray for his soul," she said, not mentioning Hice by name. "I find that for my family, we finally have peace because justice will be served."

Hice answered questions from Coates confirming his agreement with the plea deal but said nothing further.

Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at jwhigham@pbpost.com and follow him on Twitter at @JuliusWhigham. Help support our work: Subscribe today. 

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Judge sentences man in 2017 West Palm Beach beating death